Improvising Your Way Through

Today I got to play with a great group of forty-ish bright, talented young women (and one gent!) at the Beyond Pink 2012 Conference, hosting the session “Improvising Your Way Through”:

Life isn’t scripted – it’s more like improv where you’ve got to be ready for whatever’s thrown at you. This workshop will build skills to help you respond to the unexpected, tap into your courage, speak up, step up and be more agile as you adapt to the always changing workplace and career landscape. Together we’ll learn how to be better improvisers in our daily lives.

It was fantastic to see so many of the delegates interested in the session. Here’s a recap of what we explored together:

  • Soundball – discovering how arbitrary our judgements are (good sound! bad sound!) and how these judgements hold us back from being spontaneous and creative.
  • One-Word-At-A-Time Story – more exploring of our internal censor and reacting to the unexpected word your partner gave you. We don’t have control over creating the story just like we don’t have total control in our life. The fun and challenge is to accept the offer even when it’s not what we wanted or expected.
  • But Versus And – experiencing our ideas get ignored, rejected, accepted or built upon. Using blocks as springboards to build something new. Build the muscle of accepting offers by starting with yourself and tracking how many times you accept others’ ideas or say no to them (or yourself). And say no with clarity and confidence when something is against your values or principles. 

Find a way to say yes to things. Say yes to invitations to a new country, say yes to meet new friends, say yes to learn something new. Yes is how you get your first job, and your next job, and your spouse, and even your kids. Even if it’s a bit edgy, a bit out of your comfort zone, saying yes means that you will do something new, meet someone new, and make a difference. Yes lets you stand out in a crowd, be the optimist, see the glass full, be the one everyone comes to. Yes is what keeps us all young. – Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google

  • Status Party – playing with high status behaviours and low status behaviours, discovering how much our behaviours affect us and others in real life. Status is something we do, not who we are, and it’s not about high status behaviours = good, low status behaviours = bad, it’s about making conscious status choices to use your power well. The more equal the status, the more communication is facilitated. Beware! Inauthentic behaviours will be spotted and backfire. Find alignment between your intentions and your non-verbal behaviours can catapult your effectiveness.

There are a number of ways to actively influence your Status and I want to indicate only a few examples. A relaxed position of the head while speaking, an open body position with direction but without hasty movements, a relaxed, full voice using complete sentences, as well as keeping eye contact, are techniques that raise your own Status.

Tense head movements in speaking, sentences that begin with “uh,” a closed body position, frequent non-relaxed expressions of the face or head, create a behavioral pattern which reduces Status. ~ Keith Johnstone on Status

A heartfelt thank you from me to everyone in the workshop today for bringing their energy and discovering new skills to improvise our way through!

Want to learn more about applying improv principles to your career and life? Check out these books.